Olt looking to use all fields

WILMINGTON, Del. – Third base prospect Mike Olt is off to an impressive start in his first full season, hitting .285 with some power and plenty of walks. Lone Star Dugout recently caught up with the former supplemental first-round pick for a Q&A session.

Nearly two months into his first full professional season, High-A Myrtle Beach third baseman Mike Olt has solidified himself as one of the Texas Rangers' top prospects. And, according to some scouts, he just may be the top position-player prospect currently playing in the eight-team Carolina League.

Through 43 games, Olt has posted a .285/.396/.490 slash line in the pitcher-friendly circuit. He has 10 doubles and seven homers. His 28 walks rank second in the league, just one behind Kinston's Tyler Holt.

Olt currently stands among the league leaders in both on-base percentage (.396; 1st) and slugging percentage (.490; 9th).

The Texas Rangers selected the University of Connecticut product with the 49th overall pick of last year's MLB Draft, taking him with their second pick in the supplemental first round. He ultimately signed for a reported slot-level $717,300 bonus.

The 6-foot-2, 202-pound prospect impressed out of the gates by hitting .293/.390/.464 at short-season Spokane last summer. The primary negative was his 77 strikeouts in 69 games––a 24.8 percent rate.

As Olt mentioned in spring training, his primary focus coming into the 2011 season was cutting down on some of the pre-pitch movement in his mechanics to help make him shorter to the ball and––hopefully––cut down on the strikeouts. While Olt has excellent raw strength and bat speed, his hit tool was the main question mark as he entered professional baseball.

So far this season, Olt has cut down on the punchouts even after skipping the Low-A level. With 39 strikeouts in 43 games, the rate––while still a bit high––is down to 21.4 percent. It is currently at an even better 18.1 percent in May.

And as Olt worked on his mechanics during spring training in March, he turned a few heads both in Surprise Stadium and on the back fields. In seven major league games, the first-year player went 4-for-10 with a double and a home run.

The 22-year-old currently profiles for above-average power and at least an average hit tool. His strike-zone discipline should enable him to draw a fair number of walks as he climbs the organizational ladder. Olt rarely––if at all––chased pitches outside of the strike zone during his recent three-game series at Wilmington. In the first game, he launched a home run off Royals prospect Tyler Sample on a fastball up and middle-away.

Olt has not only been impressive offensively, but he also stands out as a prospect due to his work in the field. The third baseman is a good athlete and profiles as a plus defender. A former shortstop, Olt plays the hot corner with shortstop-like actions. He shows solid instincts to go along with above-average range to all sides and a very strong arm.

Only time will tell if Olt spends the entire season in the Carolina League. The Double-A Frisco club has a third base prospect of its own, with Tom Mendonca posting a .306/.343/.547 line in his first 42 games. The success of both may create a bit of a dilemma for the Rangers later in the season, but it's certainly a good issue for the organization to have.

For now, as Olt explains in the following interview, he'll continue to work on refining his swing to cut down on the holes––and ultimately the strikeouts––in order to prepare for the upper levels of the minors.

Prospect Video:

Olt takes BP in spring trianing 2011 from Jason Cole on Vimeo.

Jason Cole: Now that you're about 40 games into your first full season, how do you feel the first month-plus has gone for you?

Mike Olt: It has definitely been a good month. Getting adjusted to this league––it took a little while to get used to it. But I definitely think that I'm starting to catch on to the way that they're pitching, and I'm starting to get comfortable here. It has been a lot of fun.

Cole: You faced a lot of these Wilmington pitchers in spring training, and then once again during your first series of the regular season. Do you recall some of these guys from spring training, or was it kind of a blur while you were getting adjusted?

Olt: I definitely remember some of these pitchers. I remember the starters. I don't remember much of the ‘pen. I guess they got a bunch of new guys coming in here since our last series. But we faced their starters a couple times in spring training, so I definitely got used to them there. And I kept going with it here.

Cole: Being in a small league here, have you faced pitchers multiple times yet? Have you noticed them pitching you differently the second time around?

Olt: Yeah, I've faced guys multiple times. I think it's the same––basically, in any count, I have to be ready for any pitch because that's the way they've been pitching me since the beginning of the year. There's no real pattern. If I'm able to get a fastball––I'm hoping to hit their fastball. That's the way I go off it.

Cole: Do you feel you've gotten a reputation on how to pitch you yet? Have you noticed teams attacking you in a similar way?

Olt: I'm sure there's a book out. I hope they don't have all my weaknesses. But they've definitely found some things and exploited it. They do it early in the series, and then hopefully I make adjustments throughout the next couple games. I have to adjust to their game plan.

Cole: By the numbers, this is probably the most pitcher-friendly full-season league, at least this season. Have you noticed anything in terms of balls not carrying in most of the parks?

Olt: I wouldn't blame it on the balls not carrying. I would blame it a lot on the pitchers' locations. They don't miss very often. Last year in Spokane, you'd see maybe two mistakes in an at-bat. Now it's more like one, and they're nibbling around the corners and working in and out. That's something you've got to get used to as you move up. It's good to get it out now and then move up the ranks from there.

Cole: What have you been working on, both offensively and defensively, since you got to Myrtle Beach?

Olt: I've definitely been working on my approach at the plate. I'm looking middle-away and just adjusting. At some points, I like to get pull-happy and look middle-in. That's when I've been getting behind in counts, and they have been going with their strong points to me instead of me going after their weak points early in the count. I think that was one of my big points. Defensively, I've just been doing the same thing I've been doing. I'm just trying to get as many reps as I can and just stay comfortable.

Cole: You're going to the opposite field quite a bit so far this season, aren't you?

Olt: Yeah. I think that's all because my game plan has been more looking toward middle-away. I'm trying to keep it more focused on the center of the field and then adjusting in or away.

Cole: Is that something you would have done in college at all?

Olt: I don't think I would have done that with a metal bat. You can get away with a lot of things. And you can pull an outside pitch and just poke it over the left field wall. So I think that was more of my approach. I learned quickly that that's not going to fly up here.

Cole: I'm sure you've talked to some of the UConn guys about the new bats in college baseball for this year. George Springer, a guy that can crush balls with wood bats, struggled power-wise for most of this season. Are you kind of glad you didn't have to use those?

Olt: Yeah. I took BP with them once, and I wanted to get out of there quick. It's tough. They've definitely changed it a lot, and it definitely changed the game a lot. But in some regards, I think it helped UConn because they're more of a scrappy, fast team. They like to work the hit-and-runs and steal and bunt a lot more. I think it worked out well for them. George probably wasn't happy.

Cole: You were a big part of turning that program around and hosting a regional last year. Are you still following that group? I know they recently ran away with the Big East regular season title.

Olt: Yeah. I talk to them all the time, keep up with them, and follow every game. I'm definitely hoping they do well in the next couple weeks.

Cole: You were talking about how your approach has been a big focus for you so far. Even though it's still early, do you take any satisfaction out of leading the league in walks at this point?

Olt: It's way too early for anything. It's all about how I finish. It's not about how you start or anything like that. I'm trying to stay focused the whole year and keep doing what I'm doing.

Cole: I'm sure you're happy with the performance thus far, but what would you like to improve upon as you look forward to the remainder of your time here?

Olt: There is still a lot with my swing that I need to improve on. I'm just trying to get those holes out. Right now, maybe those pitchers aren't going to figure out those holes as quickly, but as the next couple levels come along, they're going to exploit those really bad. Whatever I can work on with the swing––I want to keep that going.

Cole: You told me in spring training that you were working on taking out some of the pre-pitch movement, and you felt that was helping you stay shorter to the ball and cut down on the strikeouts. How do you feel that has come along?

Olt: It has definitely come along. I've had it my whole life, so I knew it was going to take a long time and there was going to be a lot of failure with it. It has definitely come along, and to see some results is always a good thing.

Discuss this story and others regarding the Rangers system on our subscriber-only message board.

Future Rangers Top Stories